Back in June 2017 I wrote an article for the Learning Scientists on how I had started to try to incorporate their Six Strategies for Effective Learning into a maths curriculum and lessons.
A year has passed since then and the work has been continuing. I’ve spoken at two conferences recently on this theme – MathsConf14 in Kettering and researchED Rugby – and have shared a few more practical ideas, including resources we have found useful along the way.
I started both talks by placing the Six Strategies in the context of the scheme of work my department follows. The thinking behind the SoW, along with an early version, can be found in this post. As with any scheme, it is not a static document but something we adapt as we go along. I have a standing item on the agenda for every department meeting (two per half term) to discuss the SoW and any issues arising with it. Sometimes there has been too much to fit in, sometimes we’ve moved sections of a unit to a later one because the jump in difficulty felt too great.
The scheme comprises two main parts: the units, with broad objectives, and the sequence in which the units come. The main sequence would be for students starting in Year 7 and would take them through to Year 11. Our current Year 8 students are the first year group to do it ‘properly’ like this. When we introduced it they were in Year 7 and all of Years 7, 8 and 9 started the scheme. Years 8 and 9 were working on an accelerated version of it, to account for what they had done previously.
In Years 7 and 8 every class does the same units at the same time. We do, however, stream our students (two parallel halves of the year group, 4/3 split in Y7 and Y8, 4/4 split in Years 9-11), so what happens in lower sets will be different to what happens in higher sets. This is the most difficult balance for me: I don’t want a group to move on because a scheme of work dictates it. At the same time, I want to make set changes, where necessary, viable and easy. Where groups do different things, a set change can mean a student missing out on work they may never meet again and this is not a good situation.
Practically, this means I have tried to allow enough time in a unit for the following things to happen:
- The vast majority of students complete the whole unit and all the objectives therein. If they do this for every unit they will be on track to take the Higher GCSE in Year 11. Last year, about three-quarters of our students sat Higher and I would like to increase this.
- Some students will be challenged further, with harder problems taken from the content of the unit. This might be UKMT questions or similar.
- Some students will not complete every objective in a unit, but will spend time getting to grips with the core parts.
Point 3 is the one I wrestle with the most. By Year 9 we have clear Higher sets, clear Foundation sets, and those for whom we withhold judgment until we really have to. It is the Foundation sets who will take a slightly different path at this point, generally slightly slower through the content and with certain Higher objectives removed.
Over this last half term I am reviewing the scheme, making the medium-term plans to fit with next year’s dates and thinking more carefully about the new Year 9s and how to make the clear distinction between Higher and Foundation (and what things will look like for the “borderline” groups).
In the meantime, quite a few people have asked to see what the scheme looks like, so I am linking it here but with one huge caveat: this is not and could never be plug-in-and-go. You are welcome to take anything I have done, adapt it or ignore it, but please don’t think you can apply it to your context without careful thinking about how that might play out.
On the tab marked “Main Pathway” I have included an approximate number of weeks for a unit. This can change depending on feedback from teachers. We don’t squash the units to fit in a half term exactly – a unit will often roll over to the next half term. The number of weeks does not add to 39. This is because we have “Personal Challenge Week” in the Summer term (collapsed timetable) and there are inevitably lessons lost through testing, public holidays, etc. Each year I set out a plan which shows when groups will start a unit and when the assessments are. How a teacher then structures the time within those constraints is their professional decision.
When I have finished the knowledge organisers that accompany each unit I will share those as well.
If you would like to use any of it and want to have a chat, please get in touch.